Lungworms in Cats

Different to intestinal worms, adult lungworm can be found in the heart and blood vessels of the lungs, which can be life threatening if left untreated. Cats that sped a lot of time outdoors and like to roam or hunt rodents and birds are especially at risk for developing this type of parasitic infection.

In this blog post, we will look at the causes of lungworm in cats, what signs your cat may show if they have become infected, and what to do if you think your cat is infected.

Causes of Lungworm in Cats

Your cat can be exposed to lungworm by eating larvae found in infected animals such as snails, frogs or slugs. If they eat an animal they hunt such as a bird or a rodent that has eaten infected snails or slugs, they can also become infected. They could also accidentally ingest infected tiny slugs if they are on a toy, bowl, or their fur.

When a cat ingests lungworm larvae and it reaches the intestines, the parasite then wiggles out of the intestines through the body and into the lungs, where it grows into an adult worm. Once it has fully grown it can reproduce, lay eggs in the cat’s lung tissue, which then release larvae causing your cat to cough. Once the larvae are coughed up and swallowed, they are passed in the faeces.

cat lying down and is tired and lethargic

Symptoms of Lungworm in Cats

  • Moderate to severe coughing
  • Lethargy or reluctance to exercise
  • Breathing difficulties like shortness of breath, wheezing
  • Weight loss
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing

If your cat is displaying anything listed above, it’s important to take them to the vet. In some cases, they may not experience any symptoms at all, but if you suspect they may be infected, it is best to get them checked out right away. Your vet will most likely ask you to bring a faeces sample in so they can under the microscope to help diagnose the problem.

Cats sometimes try to hide their pain or signs of discomfort, but even if you suspect they may be infected, consult with your vet right away.

Cats can’t spread lungworm to another cat but they will pass the larvae in their waste. This then infects more slugs and snails who are eaten by more cats (or dogs), so the disease can spread very quickly within pet communities.

Is Lungworm Dangerous in Cats?

Symptoms can be mild in adult cats, but the disease can be more serious in kittens or cats with weaker immune systems. It can develop into bronchitis, pneumonia and even respiratory failure. Senior cats and cats that are otherwise unwell are also at higher risk of lungworm leading to serious consequences if they pick up the lungworm parasite.

If you suspect your cat, no matter their age or health status, has come into contact with lungworm, bring them to your vet for a thorough examination. Your vet may inspect your cat’s faeces or take blood tests to make a diagnosis.

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